How Google bricked the Internet of Things

Eye-based computer monitors, Microsoft in bed with its former enemy and the Internet of Things with an expiry date. Did April Fool’s Day come a week late to the tech industry? Find out in our tech roundup this week.

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Most of the folks reading these updates will be tech-heads and probably interested in the Internet of Things (IoT). According to the rhetoric, it promises to make life easier, have your barbeque talk to your smartphone to let it know when the steaks are ready, and so on. Google is one of the companies at the heart of it, and it may just have derailed the dream with its latest stunt.

In 2014 the firm, which sells the Nest thermostat, bought Revolv, an IoT startup that developed a hub for controlling diverse IoT devices in the home. It just shut down the cloud-based service that coordinated the Revolv Hub, effectively turning thousands of them into paperweights overnight. It had warned customers of this impending move months ago, but it raises an important question: If the IoT allows companies to kill products overnight that you purchased legitimately, how valuable is it to customers, really?

Microsoft and Linux: Better together

Remember when Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer called open source a cancer? The world seems to have turned upside down. Microsoft just announced it is porting bash, the popular command line and scripting shell for Unix and Linux, to Windows.

Bash will be part of the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), which is an API that allows Linux binaries and software libraries to be installed on Windows. It’s not a Linux kernel, but it does provide Linux functionality. Canonical, the firm behind Ubuntu, will be providing bash among other Linux goodies.

We used to live in a suits-versus-sandals world, but that’s changed, and Linux now sits at the heart of much cloud development. Microsoft has to wear both suit and sandals at the same time, opening its arms to developers who love Linux. Providing bash effectively provides a window into that world while giving them access to Microsoft’s development ecosystem at the same time. That’s a smart move.

Cyberspace, right before your eyes

Manufacturers are working hard to make the mobile experience more intuitive, but perhaps none more so than Samsung, which has applied for a patent on augmented reality contact lenses. The devices, powered by a wireless connection to the user’s smartphone, would sandwich an augmented reality OLED display between two thin contact lens layers. The user would apparently control them by blinking.

This is still just a patent application rather than a confirmed technology, and would likely be years off, if it ever makes it to the shelves at all. Let’s assume we’ll see it in time for the Samsung Galaxy Note 27. We can already see a whole generation of users paying for coffee in Starbucks by rapidly blinking at the barista. Life in 2035 is going to be exceedingly weird.

Best of expertIP

Back in the early days of cybercrime, lowlife criminals took a ‘spray and pray’ approach, sending unconvincing spam email to anyone they could find. The success rate for phishing spam would be relatively low, but if you’re mailing millions of people, even a 0.1% uptake can net a criminal hundreds of thousands of dollars. These days, though, they’re after bigger phish. Covering the latest Trend Micro report on cybercrime breaches in Canada, expertIP blogger Jared Lindzon found that online thieves are honing their attacks and becoming more sophisticated.

One of the symptoms of such an attack is an increased focus on direct theft rather than indirect financial gain. Instead of compromising machines and selling them as resources to botnet herders, thieves can simply steal directly from bank accounts or encrypt your information and make you send them bitcoins to get it back.

Attacks are also focusing more on corporations, the blog warned, citing ransomware designed to attack servers as an example. One such ransomware strain is Samsam. Instead of using phishing emails or drive-by downloads to compromise client devices, Samsam infects servers running unpatched versions of Red Hat JBoss. Attackers use penetration testing tools to find their targets; only then do the attackers use freely available scripting tools to identify other computers on the server’s network to infect. Ransomware isn’t just attacking your gran’s computer anymore.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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